There is little to beat the feeling of warm contentment when Christmas Day finally arrives. All the bustle and busy-ness seems worthwhile, and you are glad you made the effort!!
Daily pressures are forgotten for a while, and there seems to be goodwill everywhere.
Looking back on the pre-Christmas season, we feel very blessed.
We all have things that are special and important to us at this time of year, and these things may change as we get older. I just love Christmas Eve, and yesterday was no exception. The final shopping and decorating and present wrapping is completed, the house gets a bit of a tidy-up (in preparation for the inevitable Christmas Day clutter), and likewise, the frig gets a clean out to make room for the festive food.
For me, the absolute highlight is the midnight Christmas Service at the Chapel. It is here that the anticipation and the arrival of the day meet up in a wonderful climax, and you get a brief and intense vision of the way things ought to be all year round!
Looking back on my photos, I think about the things that are important and special to me in the lead up to Christmas.
The first is setting up the Nativity scene.
We acquired the basis of our Nativity scene 3-4 decades ago, when Lladro was incredibly cheap on Norfolk Island. Over the years we have added a few pieces. This year, we realised there were no cats round the manger, so we found a small and mischievous"Mr Shingles" and another grey cat to resemble Basil.
Some of the more elegant felt birds I made last year, and a couple of my Christmas stockings hang from the mantlepiece.
Making a Christmas pudding is one of the priorities. For years I have tried to emulate my mother's puddings, which were very black and shiny. I never thought to ask her for recipes when she was alive, but my nieces were able to supply me with photocopies of her handwritten pudding recipes.
She wrote that Mrs Beeton's pudding was her favourite, and this is the one I used this year. Mum said that the secret to the black shininess was using beef suet and treacle. I included both.
I had help.
That was important. When we were children, my mother insisted that everyone had to take a turn at stirring the pudding mixture for luck - and maybe to give her arms a rest! Another clear memory of pudding preparation when I was a child was the blanching of the almonds. It was my job to remove the skins.I am afraid my pudding does not look very black or shiny - but we will see when we cut into it this afternoon!
Yule Logs are another important part of our family Christmas tradition. I use a melt and mix uncooked recipe, and add a few luxurious ingredients which vary from year to year. This year I decorated the tops with turkish delight and pistachios, and silver cachous (which William calls "sparkles.")
Many of my decorations now stay in their boxes. I prefer to spread greenery through the house. It seems to provide a buffer from the glitzy commercial part of the season, and provides a link back to old traditions. We have no holly or ivy, but up in the woodland we have evergreen bush and ochna.
Usually at this time of year, only a few red bracts remain on the ochna, and I need to add some red artificial poppies to the arrangements.
But the other day I came on a stand of big bushes just full of the bright Christmas red "blossom," and all that was needed were a few stalks of the silver artemesia.
We all have one or two very special ornaments, and one of mine is this angel which I bought at a Craft Show in Auckland some years ago. She is somewhat understated, but for me she embodies the gentle side of Christmas.
One of the main delights of the season is the generosity of friends and family. This Christmas we have been given two big hams, one smoked by our son Peter! It is beautiful. We had the first sampling for breakfast this morning.
Peter has also supplied us with a shoulder of pork to roast, loads of bacon, some freshly dug sweet potatoes, and two big melons.
Jamie, who gave John the other ham for our family, also dropped in some small water and rockmelons this morning.
There is an enormous bunch of plun (banana) on the back porch, from the Pitcairn Settlers' Village garden - courtesy of Charles, and put there for us by Brett yesterday.
Matt, who worked wth Peter on the hams, brought a beautiful box of vegies, including our favourite red cabbage. Earlier in the week, he sent a box of overripe bananas which I used to bake a plun pilhi (a Norfolk dish.)
Rusty gave us two very large chickens, which will add to our big Christmas dinner tonight. John is baking a lovely loin of pork, and Kim is cooking a turkey.
We have been gathering avocadoes and passionfruit from out the back each day, and have had plenty to give away.
We have not even opened our gifts under the tree yet - but our larder and our hearts are full and overflowing. I do not take that for granted. At this Christmas time, it is my prayer that a spirit of thankfulness and gratitude for God's gifts and provision will remain foremost in our lives throughout the year.